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Mental Health

How to support someone with a mental illness

I feel I need to talk about this. We need to address the issue of what is and isn’t helpful. There’s enough stigma around mental illnesses that stunts people’s perceptions of what is helpful and how to deal with it. I’m sorry, this post may be a little blunt but it’s one that’s close to home.

Mental illneses and the importance of support

real talk therapy image 1So, when someone is suffering with a mental illness be it anxiety, depression, schizophrenia or anything really they need support.

Whilst I have spoken about the importance of reaching out for support I haven’t mentioned the importance of supporting those who are suffering.

From experience, trying to cope without support let alone the right support is unbareable. It’s hard and feels impossible to cope as you feel so alone in your struggle.

So, if you know someone going through this struggle. Please, try and help them. They may not be willing to receive that support. However, they will in time.

How not to support

This may sound stupid, but there are ways that aren’t helpful when supporting someone going through this.

Whilst these ways may come from a meaningful and nice place but they come across as damaging and unhelpful.

So, telling someone to just forgive and forget, in my experience. Isn’t helpful. What they’ve been through matters, how they feel matters. It’s not as easy as just forgiving something and you’ll feel better and forget. If it was as easy as that, there’d be no need for therapy.

Also, telling someone to smile and man up, that’s an instant no no, that just validates their feelings of being a burden and invalidates their problems and what they are going through. Tough love does not work and it is not helpful in the slightest.

Telling someone they are beyond a joke, taking the mick or being stupid is also not helpful, it makes the person feel guilty, feel low about themselves. This pushes the person further away into their negative feelings.

The biggest no no from experience from me is ultimatums. You do not give someone suffering from a mental illness an ultimatum. “Stop doing this or I’ll leave you” No. Just no. That is the least helpful way to support. You may mean well, you may feel desperate. However, it’s not helpful. This will honestly more than anything distress, hurt and push away your loved one as they’ll feel the pressure. This has happened to me and I honestly broke down afterwards.

People suffering from mental illnesses can’t help how they cope and how they are. It’s not an excuse but with the right support they can find healthier ways to cope.

Good ways to support

There are so many positive ways to support someone who is suffering.

You can help them by knowing when something is off. By looking into signs and symptoms with different mental illnesses and getting advice from reliable sources. If you know the person you’re worried about you may know when they’re not being themselves and may need support.

You can help them by supporting with appointments, medications etc. So by booking and going to appointments with them. Especially if they don’t want to phone because of social anxiety. If they are prone to skipping medication or abusing it then storing them for them and helping them with doses etc will be helpful. Even getting to know their team and engage with them to see how they think they’re doing.

You can also help them by seeking help for them, looking into different therapies, different support from teams. Even encouraging them to talk to someone and get help themselves.

Another way is by promoting a healthy lifestyle, so reminding them to eat, to wash, to clean up the rooms and exercise etc. I know that this does help me sometimes as I don’t really care much for myself on my really bad days.

Providing emotional support is highly important, it’s as easy as listening to them, tlaking to them. Basically being with them when they need someone. Sometimes, this may be what they need most.

Take a look at this article here on ways you can support people suffering from a mental illness.

Final thoughts

Remember, there is no one size fits all when it comes to supporting people. I’ve said this so many times in relation to other bits but it’s applicable.

If you know someone, please do try and support them in positive ways. It will be worth it, it won’t be easy, but again, it will be worth it.

Do you guys support anyone?

calm stressful situations

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– Gem

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Hi! I'm Gemma, a mental health and recovery journey blogger! My blog focuses on the effects of mental illness and the entire recovery process.

One Comment

  • Mallory

    This was such an important article to have written. Thank you for writing this. I think a lot of people have good intentions, but don’t have the knowledge or understanding of mental heath to provide the necessary support. But by continuing to educate our support systems, there will be a change in how those of us with a mental illness are supported. Thank you for sharing words of great wisdom with us!

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